Immune system research on occasion has been stymied by the inability to accurately identify the antigens that drive an immune reaction. Argonex Inc. is working on the problem by using an approach dubbed "functional antigenics," a technique in which cell-surface peptides are sequenced and identified as the potential functional, or response stimulating, antigen. To that end, the company's focus is to find antigens shared by people with a particular type of cancer. The ultimate goal, said Laboratory Director Mark Ross, is to develop therapies that will be universally applicable.

While therapeutics based on the immune system are nothing new, Ross said Argonex has taken immunotherapeutic development to a new level of "elegance" with its DIRECT technology, which identifies disease-specific antigens that stimulate an immune reaction.